Press here for your head
There’s nothing like a throbbing head to wreck your day. But instead of reflexively reaching for a pill, you could actually help your body heal itself: In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and acupressure have been used for pain management for thousands of years, and it looks like Western science may finally be catching on to this approach. “Science is showing more and more that the stimulation of certain pressure points can affect the neural fibres in the brain as well as the peripheral nervous system,” says Paul Robison, a licensed acupuncturist. A review of studies published in 2016 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, for instance, found that acupuncture was effective in helping treat patients with frequent or chronic tension-type headaches. And a study published in 2017 in JAMA Internal Medicine found that acupuncture not only helps get rid of a migraine, it can also reduce the frequency that people have them.
Acupuncture involves inserting needles along specific pathways, called meridians, which may stimulate the body’s healing process. Acupressure stimulates the same pressure points but relies on fingers instead of needles to apply pressure. “It’s all about releasing tension and restoring balance in the body,” Robison says.
Using pressure points for headaches vs. acupuncture
With acupuncture, trained professionals use superfine needles to target key points. While acupressure may not be as precise, it may help, says Robison. Either way, you can get better results with the guidance of a professional; a pro can also help you develop a personalised protocol you can follow at home. For those seeking relief right now, Robison provides the following guide to pressure points for different types of headache pain.
Pressure point to relieve tension headaches and jaw pain
The pressure point known as SI-19 (short, for point 19 of the Small Intestine meridian) is located in each ear. Targeting this sweet spot not only alleviates tension headaches and jaw pain, it can also help treat tinnitus and toothache.
Starting at the tragus of your left ear, that small bit of cartilage in the centre of the outer ear, move your index finger toward your nose about two centimetres.
Open and close your mouth and you should feel a slight depression. Place your index, middle, and ring fingers on that spot and massage in small, anti-clockwise circles for about 30 seconds.
Slowly move your fingers down the jawline.
Repeat on your right ear.